Our planet is a downright magical place. (This we know.) And there’s no greater natural wonder than its bioluminescent creatures. While you can spot some in your own backyard (hi, fireflies), you’ll have to go a bit farther to find its rare maritime critters, which paint the water and dot the shorelines with an effervescent blue glow. Here, five enchanting bioluminescent spots to add to your bucket list immediately.
You can thank Vargula hilgendorfii, adorably dubbed “sea fireflies,” for the twinkling blue streaks and swirls decorating this beautiful coastline. The sandy beaches along the Seto Inland Sea (from Kyushu to Awajishima) are ripe with these tiny bioluminescent creatures during the summer months. (They come out to feed at nightfall after spending the day burrowed in the sand.)
PRIMROSE SANDS, TASMANIA
Preservation Bay, on the northwest coast of Tasmania, is a hot spot for catching this magical phenomenon. The glowing blue patterns in the water are caused by billions of single cell plant plankton called Noctiluca scintillans. Look for pink algae in the water by day, as it’s a harbinger of spotting this mesmerizing “sea sparkle” come nighttime.
SAN DIEGO, CA
Roughly every other year a massive tide of red algae called Lingulodinium polyedrum blooms off the coast of this southern California town, illuminating the waves with beautiful flashes of blue at nightfall. In the area this summer? Beaches like Mission Bay and Torrey Pines are expected to be red by day and blue by night; so head to the coast and cross your fingers.
VIEQUES, PUERTO RICO
The famous Mosquito Bay on the southern tip of this island is the brightest bioluminescent location on record — thanks to an abundance of dinoflagellates (tiny glowing marine plants). According to researcher David Gruber, there are at least 6,000 of them per tablespoon of water (!), making for an otherworldly experience as you move through the balmy bay.
THE MALDIVE ISLANDS
The tropical waters around these Indian Ocean islands teem with bioluminescent creatures called ostracod crustaceans (which typically emit their blue light for longer than plankton do). Stroll the shores of islands like Kuredu during fall months when the moon is low, and there’s a good chance your sandy footprints will be glowing.